One of the more controversial moves Doug Wilson has made over the past year was trading Jamie McGinn and Michael Sgarbossa to the Avalanche for Daniel Winnik and T.J. Galiardi at the 2012 trade deadline. If you're reading this, you know how the rest of the story goes; McGinn caught fire playing with a vastly better center than he did in San Jose while the Sharks stumbled to their lowest seed since 2003 and endured the quickest postseason exit in franchise history. I wouldn't lay any of that at the feet of Winnik, however, who made a solid impact in turning around the bottom six forward group's possession game and improved the Sharks' dismal penalty kill.
Save for a terrible 09-10 season with the Phoenix Coyotes, Winnik has always been a standout possession forward. His size and above-average skating ability allow him to consistently win puck battles in all areas of the ice and ensure the puck spends the majority of the time in the offensive zone. Last year with the Avs, Winnik posted a sterling +12.2 Relative Corsi rate, a measure of the extent to which he improved the team's puck possession ability by stepping on the ice, which was first on the club despite the fact he started just 42.2% of his shifts in the offensive zone. He picked up right where he left off this year with the Avalanche, driving play while facing the toughs and seeing difficult zonestarts on a line with young phenoms Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O'Reilly. Predictably, he carried his even-strength possession skills over to the Sharks where he, Andrew Desjardins and Tommy Wingels formed what was easily the most effective line the Sharks employed in their bottom six all season long.
The only issue with Winnik's play at evens, and this is an argument I rarely make, is that he appears to be one of the few forwards in the league who demonstrably suppresses the shooting percentage of his teammates (in addition, obviously, to being a below-average finisher himself). Since 2007, Winnik's 5.63 on-ice EV shooting percentage ranks 244th out of the 247 forwards who have played at least 3000 minutes over that span. Of course, the game is about how many more goals you're able to score than your opponents and on the flip side of the coin, Winnik's .930 on-ice EV save percentage since 2007 is 20th-best among qualifying forwards. Still, that adds up to a below-average PDO and since the primary force driving on-ice SV% is goaltending, that part of the equation is more likely to be subject to variance going forward than Winnik's poor on-ice finishing rate.
When the Sharks first acquired Winnik, I mentioned that he was arguably the best penalty killing forward in the league this season with the Avalanche as no forward in the NHL who averaged at least two shorthanded minutes per game averaged fewer shots against per 60 minutes on the PK than Winnik. He finished the season atop that leaderboard and only three 2-minute-a-game penalty killing forwards in the league--all of them Penguins; Jordan Staal, Craig Adams and Matt Cooke--averaged fewer goals against per 60 shorthanded minutes than Winnik. Despite the Sharks' conservative approach to killing penalties contrasting with Winnik's aggressive style of shorthanded play, this was an area Winnik made a definite impact in and he could certainly be counted on to anchor a #1 PK unit in the future.
Daniel Winnik Statistical Overview (Colorado and San Jose)
|Season||GP||TOI/60||Corsi Rel QoC||DZone%|
|Corsi Rel||PDO||+/-/60||4v5 SA/60||4v5 GA/60|
FTF Grade: B+. Winnik was terrific on the penalty kill and proved to be the shot in the arm the team's bottom six needed, at least in terms of playing at the right end of the rink. His abnormally poor finishing rate at evens and his tendency to create lower-quality shots for his teammates raise concerns about the viability of re-signing him before he hits unrestricted free agency on July 1st, but Winnik provides enough value through puck possession and shorthanded dominance that a contract in the realm of the $2.25mil/year deal he was reportedly seeking from the Avalanche would be a solid move for the Sharks front office.